By May 4, 2012 2 Comments

Expectations of Being a Travel Nurse

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what to expect from travel nursing

In days gone by the average nursing school student completed her education and went to work at a local doctor’s office or hospital. But the healthcare industry is changing rapidly and, as such, the nursing profession is changing with it. Today a good number of nursing students are choosing to become travel nurses upon graduation. Furthermore, established nurses are also discovering some of the benefits of a travel nurse position and are electing to make the transition into that area.

If being a travel nurse is something you’re considering, what are your expectations? It’s important to ask that question because travel nursing has its own special challenges that can be troublesome if you’re not prepared for them. If you’re considering travel nursing, whether it be for the short-term or a long-term career goal, it’s important that you fully understand what you’re getting yourself into. For some nurses it is a dream come true; for others travel nursing can be a nightmare.healthcare industry is changing rapidly and, as such, the nursing profession is changing with it. Today a good number of nursing students are choosing to become travel nurses upon graduation. Furthermore, established nurses are also discovering some of the benefits of a travel nurse position and are electing to make the transition into that area.

Staffing Agencies

For starters, you need to be aware that you have two choices for finding work as a travel nurse: becoming an independent contractor or signing on with a staffing agency. The vast majority of travel nurses will use a staffing agency simply because they find all the work and handle all the arrangements.

What you need to know is that not all staffing agencies are the same. You’ll need to be very careful to ask questions about salary and benefits, who pays travel expenses, and how housing is provided. Furthermore you’ll need to know the geographic locations of the staffing agency’s clients. Lastly, make sure you know how assignments are given and how much control you have over your own schedule.

Travel and Housing Allowance

In some cases agencies cover travel and housing expenses, in other cases they don’t. From a financial standpoint it makes the most sense to concentrate on those that do. However, even among those agencies you have to make sure you know exactly what their policies are. For example, one staffing agency may provide direct housing in a building very near the hospital where the assignment is. Another agency may merely provide you with a per diem allowance and require you to find your own housing. This is important if housing qualifies as a deal breaker for you.

Length and Types of Assignments

Lastly, the other important thing you need to know about being a travel nurse has to do with the length and types of assignments you’ll get. Assignments typically last from 3 to 6 months; they can go longer in some cases. At the low end that means you’ll take between three and four assignments every year. Are you prepared to travel that much? How far away from home are you willing to go?

In terms of the types of assignments themselves, you’ll be offered those that are commensurate with your experience and skill set. But keep in mind that no matter where you work, you’re considered temporary help. That means you’ll probably end up at the bottom of the “food chain” among your fellow workers. If that’s something that bothers you be sure to take that into consideration.

Being a travel nurse is an exciting opportunity for those who love to see new places, meet new people, and face new challenges. But before you make the choice to be a travel nurse be sure to investigate the opportunity thoroughly. Look into the various staffing agencies, talk to other nurses, and ask plenty of questions. As long as your expectations are in line with reality you should find it a rewarding career opportunity.

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About the Author:

Debbie Paige helps educate people interested in a profession in nursing. Her website Nursing School Education aims to cover topics to help nursing students find schools, programs and career opportunities upon graduating, plus provide a free resource where students can discuss openly any questions they have about nursing. Her expertise is in registered nursing but writes and teaches about all types of nursing and specialties. Debbie also has a busy home life with 5 children taking up a lot of her time. She enjoys reading when time allows and likes to think she's good in the kitchen!

2 Comments on "Expectations of Being a Travel Nurse"

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  1. James says:

    How can you be a travel nurse with no experience?

  2. Jeannie says:

    Hi James,

    To become a travel nurse, you must first have your RN license. Also, most travel nurse companies require at least 1 year of clinical experience in your specialty to travel. Some even require two.

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